There is plenty happening across Connor to stimulate and challenge over this Easter period.
As well as the usual Holy Week services, parishes are organising a number of different and fun activities. Here are just some of the events to look forward to.
Parishioners from St Patrick’s with All Saints in Cairncastle will be joining members of the three other churches in the area on the beach on Easter Sunday. People will gather at 7am at the slipway in Ballygally [opposite Ballygally Holiday Apartments] for their annual shared celebration of Easter.
The 20 minute service is led jointly by clergy and lay representatives from all four churches and is followed by tea and toast in the Ballygally Castle Hotel (£2 a head).
This year the service will be led by the Rev Roger Thompson, rector of St Patrick’s with All Saints, with an address given by Rev Lena Cockcroft, Cairncastle Old Presbyterian Church, Non Subscribing. Rev Anne Tolland from Cairncastle Presbyterian Church and a representative from St Joseph’s Catholic Church will also be involved.
Everyone is welcome to this cross-community event which has taken place every Easter for many years now, and is always very well-supported. It is organised by the Coastal Clergy group which meets every month for prayer and to plan ecumenical activities.
Rev Roger Thompson said: “The setting on Ballygally beach is very special and a couple of years ago we had the joy of watching a vivid rainbow form across the North Channel just as we sang “Alleluia, alleluia give thanks to the risen Lord!” The breakfast afterwards in the Ballygally Castle Hotel is also a lovely experience, with folk mixing freely and munching their toast in front of the open fire.”
In Antrim, All Saints Parish along with High Street Presbyterian, St Comgall's Roman Catholic, and Antrim Methodist Church will be holding their fifth Walk of Witness on Good Friday.
Those taking part meet at High Street Presbyterian Church at 11.30am where they are taken by Ulsterbus to Antrim Methodist Church for the first act of worship which will begin at 12 noon. They then walk to All Saints’, St Comgall’s and finish in High Street. In each church there will be a short period of prayer and reflection on the reading of the passion and a hymn.
Last year more than 300 people took part. Archdeacon Stephen McBride, Vicar of Antrim, said: “The walk is a tremendous visible sign to our community that our churches and their members can co-operate together. On each of the previous occasions we have been joined by the serving mayor and this year we have invited Councillor Oran Keenan to say a prayer remembering the three people who were recently murdered by dissident terrorists, two of whom were murdered at the Massereene Barracks.”
Archdeacon McBride added: “Crossing denominational boundaries has become the accepted norm between our congregations and the Good Friday walk of witness is another.”
In Loughguile parish, the youngest members will have a special role to play on Easter Sunday. A Tiny Tots' Holy Communion Service will be held at 12.15pm, when the 0-5 year-olds take a full part in the (grown-up) Easter Communion. There will be an egg hunt during the first hymn; the Gospel reading is from a Bible story book; the sermon is an activity; and prayers have pictures or objects to illustrate them
In Armoy on Good Friday there will be a service of readings and hymns with a big, rough, wooden cross in church starting at 7.30pm.
Muckamore, Killead and Gartree parishes will be showing the Mel Gibson film ‘The Passion of the Christ’ in St Catherine’s RAF Aldergrove at 6.30pm with refreshments afterwards. This special event is aimed at reaching out to new people living on the camp.
In Ballymoney, St Patrick’s Parish is holding a Maundy Thursday Communion which includes the washing of the feet and an hour spent in silence after the service. The rector, the Rev John Cunningham said: “As our Lord asked his disciples, ‘Can you not spend one hour with me?’” There will also be a dawn service on Easter Sunday in the old graveyard.
St Nicholas Parish Church in Lisburn Road, Belfast, is hosting a Tenebrae service on Good Friday at 8pm. Four Churches on the Lisburn Road (Windsor and Ulsterville Presbyterian, Belfast South Methodist and Saint Nicholas) all taking part. Adding to the atmosphere, there will be a row of 13 candles and the church gets darker and darker during the readings. Earlier that day, from 12noon to 3pm, there will be three hours at the cross.
On Easter Sunday at 8.30 am St Nicholas is holding an open air service followed by breakfast in the halls on Cadogan Park. On Maundy Thursday at 8pm the Rt Rev Ken Clarke, Bishop of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh, will be preaching and presiding at Holy Communion. This is also a united service with the four churches and a united choir.
St Bartholomew’s, Stranmillis, Belfast, is doing the following, in addition to regular events: Good Friday – 10.30am-11.30am Good, it’s Friday! – worship, crafts and refreshments for children and parents in the church and church hall, Easter Sunday 9am-10.15pm Breakfast in the church hall cooked by the men of the church. At 6.30pm there will be Easter carols and readings, rather than straight 'Evening Prayer.'
St Mark's Church, Ballymacash Road, Lisburn, is running an Easter Holiday Club for children from Wednesday April 15 to Saturday April 18, meeting each day from 10am to 1pm.
The Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, will be crossing the high seas to Rathlin Island on Easter Sunday where he will preach in St Thomas’s Parish Church. The service will be followed by a parish picnic.
St Comgall's in Rathcoole will be holding a Tenebrae Service on Good Friday night at 8pm, something the parish has done for the past two years.